Cell System Complexity and Biological Evolution

  • Michele Sarà


According to the recent knowledge on cell and genome functioning the whole cell system directed by genes, and not the genes alone, should be considered as the basic evolutionary level. Gene changes cannot be considered, as in the neo-darwinian orthodoxy, only as stochastic changes because are submitted to several endogenous and exogenous constraints. Moreover, natural selection works on phenotypes that don’t exactly mirror genomic changes but are strongly influenced by the epigenetic cell processes. The cell system produces the proteome and the whole cell phenotype through a continuous molecular talking based on a bidirectional information flow linking genome and membrane receptors. However, in a pluricellular organism, the single cell systems shall be always considered inside the framework of tissue interactions.

The dynamic autopoietic processes based on the cell system complexity are characterized by robustness but also plasticity. Stresses, i.e. stimuli beyond the threshold, may provoke their breakdown but may be also the cause of incipient evolutionary changes. These become effective if may be transmitted through generations and are not eliminated by natural selection. Transmission may occur through epigenetic or epigenetically induced genetic mechanisms. As the epigenetic way seems presently too little stable to represent a general mechanism I consider an epigenetically induced genetic way as the most fruitful working hypothesis for linking the cell system autopoietic changes to the evolutionary novelties. It could be based on the genetic assimilation of plastic traits.


Phenotypic Plasticity Biological Evolution Epigenetic Inheritance Genetic Assimilation Germ Cell Line 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michele Sarà
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento per lo studio del Territorio e delle sue RisorseGenovaItaly

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